Just fuck you, ALAC. Fuck you and fuck the horse you rode in on.

I don’t really have words, at this point. I can’t believe these things need to be said. I can’t believe multiple organisations are still trying to claim that this isn’t victim-blaming.

Background: ALAC, the Alcohol Advisory Council of NZ, have launched a campaign called “Had Enough?”

Two of their ads feature men getting drunk, acting like dicks, doing awful things and then feeling like shit afterwards.

Which makes total sense.

The third ad, on the other hand, features a woman getting drunk, acting drunk … and being dragged down a dark alleyway by a seedy-looking guy. As her increasingly panicked shrieks ring forth from the television, ALAC points out that THE DEMON DRINK IS BAD, Y’ALL.

All three can be viewed here.

Those of you used to discussing feminist and/or sexual assault issues in any forum will of course be utterly unsurprised just how much people are willing to say that there isn’t a qualitative difference between those advertisements.

ALAC’s own responses to complaints have been tracked by the awesome bloggers over at The Hand Mirror, and include such wonderful moments as:

There is a very real urgency to do something about changing New Zealand’s binge drinking culture as it is creating an enormous amount of preventable harm. Research statistics from Police, Ministry of Transport and hospital emergency services show that harms for women are
increasing and that if the trend continues they will start to outstrip males in terms of harms from alcohol use. These statistics are also supported by anecdotal information on trends from many of our partner organisations in health and social services who we shared the advertisements with prior to going to air.

.. So basically threatening all women with rape if they’re naughty = endsjustifymeans, etc. Of course they deny that they’re blaming the victim:

At ALAC we are very clear that while binge drinking does increase your risk of harm, this does not mean that if you are a victim of a crime while drunk that you are to blame.

Which is kind of odd, given that the other two ads are very much about blame: drink like a moron and you may hurt a small child; drink like a moron and you’ll start a fight then end up vomiting into a toilet. Your drinking = your harmful actions afterwards. Seems pretty clear.

Of course it’s probably entirely plausible that ALAC is run by the kind of sexist wankstains who thought, “Let’s show men that they’re responsible for their actions … but women, well I guess we should include some message about Vulnerability and Helplessness at the hands of a Big Strong Seedy Man. It’s not like they have agency to cause harm to others, silly things!”

What is practically certain is that ALAC is run by the kind of sexist wankstains who do think, “Showing a woman getting raped while drunk, when our point is that being drunk makes you “vulnerable”, is totally not the same thing as blaming her for getting into that situation, right?”

Which doesn’t work on any level: it doesn’t work for poor naughty binge-drinking Lisa, and it doesn’t work for the message ALAC claims it’s trying to send.

What happens to Lisa? Well, the ad makes it fairly obvious that she’s destined for the role of “Deserving Victim” in J. Society’s masterwork, Most Overused Rape Myth Scenario Ever. But what about the next day? Might her reactions not be just slightly similar to those of one of the Hand Mirror bloggers? Is she honestly meant to sit and muse over a cup of tea in iambic pentameter,

I really must admit that it was I
Who went and drank and ended up like that
The Drink left me so vuln’rable and weak,
Yea, truly I shall not binge-drink again!

Not that ALAC cares about Lisa, or any woman, for that matter: apparently the only thing that’s changed since the temperance movement of the 19th century is that someone figured out that the phrase “demon drink” is probably just going to make The Kids think it’s cool.

So maybe ALAC’s trying to work on a wider level, and Lisa is just a metaphorical hackneyed rape victim. Maybe she’s not meant to be taken seriously as a real flesh-and-blood person suffering horribly because she asked for it was in a vulnerable state. There’s some trumpets-resounding Greater Social Message behind all this, and it’s … well, here are the options, and try to consider them the way the vast majority of the population – who aren’t feminists and aren’t exactly enlightened when it comes to things like victim-blaming:

a) Women, by engaging in binge-drinking, render themselves more vulnerable to being the victims of sexual assault by total strangers who fit the kind of Bad Guy profile they use to cast Steven Seagal films;

b) Women who drink get raped
b(ii)) Women who act in socially-disapproved-of-ways get raped
b(iii)) So women should just behave and then they won’t get raped
b(iv)) So women who were drunk when they were raped should be disbelieved and/or scorned because they didn’t Follow The Rules

c) Rapists are seedy guys in alleyways
c(i)) So clean-cut guys from Good Families with Good Careers can’t be rapists
c(ii) So guys who Could Have Any Girl They Wanted also can’t be rapists because they don’t need to rape

If you’re leaning towards (b) and (c), congratulations, you have successfully channelled Middle New Zealand.

… And HOLY SHIT, guys, I think I just figured out why we have a fucking sexual assault problem in society!

I really, really want to believe that ALAC had the best of intentions with this ad. I really do believe that while it’s easy for advertisers to think of such original messages as “White Guys, When Drunk, Start Fights” and “Polynesians, When Drunk, Hurt Children” … well, what cultural narratives do we have for women when drunk? We do after all live in a society where men = active and women = passive.

But wait … aren’t these ads about shock tactics, ALAC? It strikes me that telling us what we’re already supposed to “know” hardly works. Unless this is a lot less about Showing People The Errors of Their Ways and a lot more about demonizing people who like to have a bit of a piss-up sometimes. Unless ALAC really do believe that women who drink deserve to have bad things happen to them.

Have no fear, of course, because the Advertising Standards Authority is still around to say this kind of thing isn’t cool, right? Right?


  1. Matt

    Have you considered that all three ads are distinctly stereo-typical depictions of negative alcohol-related outcomes? The men getting into fights and acting like fucktards, and the woman getting sexually assaulted. They’re ALL offensive, if one wants to find offence. Alternatively one could simply look at the message, which is that bad things happen if you drink too much.

    If I were so inclined, I could choose to be mortally offended by the implication that only men get violent and pick fights when drunk. Maybe you’d have preferred the female protagonist to stagger through the door to her home pissed out of her gourd, and start bitch-slapping her hapless live-in partner whose sole crime was to ask if she had a good night? Would that make your precious little equal-opportunities heart happier? Coz that’s the alternative. That or a “Slap My Bitch Up”-style orgy of offensive behaviour in public. Take your pick.

  2. QoT

    You know, it never ceases to amaze me how some people will cry, “But what about the privileged group?”

    If you are honestly convinced that the portrayal of the men in these ads – responsible only for their own actions – and the portrayal of women as responsible for preventing *other people raping them* is in any way equivalent … well, you’ve certainly done nothing to shake my conviction that women are an oppressed class, Matt.

  3. Matt

    I wasn’t crying any such thing. I said I could CHOOSE to feel mortally offended about the depictions, but I don’t. I accept that they’re trying to pass a message, and leave it at that. Did you miss the comments from a Wellington Hospital ED doc who’s predicting, based on this year’s statistics (hard numbers, not anecdotal evidence), that by the end of the year females aged 20-and-under will be 60% of admissions for alcohol-related harm? I’d say that any way of trying to get the message through that binge drinking is risky behaviour is a good thing.

    Is it blaming the victim to expect women to watch their drinks and make sure they don’t get spiked? Similar line of thinking. Getting raped isn’t the victim’s fault, but is it really too much to ask that people not go out of their way to get into situations where harm may befall them? If a man walks through the back streets of [insert stereotypically bad neighbourhood] alone, at night, wearing flashy clothes and looking successful, is he completely and utterly absolved of ANY contributory culpability if he gets mugged? Not in my world.

    You never told me which of my alternative scenarios you’d prefer, either. Or are they all equally offensive to you?

    [QoT: I’m stealing this trick from The Standard. I’d like to thank you, Matt, for pulling the classic “If you don’t have All The Answers, stfu”, combined with grade-A “it’s not victim-blaming, it’s LOGIC” and a side order of “ends justify the means”. None of these are arguments, they’re ways of avoiding the points made.]

  4. Matt

    Yay for the culture of victimisation. I’ll leave it at that.

    [QoT: Sure thing, Matt. I’ve always found argument-through-soundbite a little shallow and unimpressive, but your mileage may vary.]

  5. Joanna

    What made me even angrier about this whole thing was the response I got from the Advertising Standards Authority who lumped my complaint into the “showing violence on tv, oh noes” basket instead of my total disgust at the victim-blaming of these ads.

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  11. julesvenning

    Brilliant clear logic. ALAC not so much – not at all, insulting and misleading. I sat in meetings with ALAC in CAnterbury where they admitted advertising was not the answer nor was education but raising the age, cutting adverts and putting legislation in place…but hey, we’re just going to leave 1 in 5 persons with their problem and the rest of us with the consequences.